Getting through the ups and downs

You know when someone says, “I’m sure it’ll be fine” and you lunge at their neck while screaming, “How the hell do you know?”

No? Just me?

I am not a full-time yoga teacher. (It’s a pretty nourishing side gig as far as side gigs go.) But I just don’t have any desire to do it day-in and day-out. I do have a day job – a good one. One I don’t mind coming into even though it occasionally drives me batty. (That’s what yoga is for!)

But, yesterday, I was told that I might lose that job. The contracting company I work for didn’t win the re-bid for the project I am on. So the new company can either replace me with someone else, offer me the job with a significant pay cut or keep everything the same (the ideal situation, of course). As a pragmatist, I am definitely updating my résumé and holding off on major expenses. I am also trying not to freak out.

“What if they cut my pay? What happens to my benefits? My 401k? What if my new supervisors are jerks?”

Uncertainty is a bitch.

But one thing is keeping me from Meltdown City…

A few months ago in one of my yoga books, I came across a Chinese parable. There are many versions of it but all have a very similar gist and it goes like this:

A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

This story is often told when teaching non-attachment. For me, it very clearly conveyed that not all good things are good and not all bad things are bad. It’s best not to get attached to the present situation. I have experienced that some good things have led to bad things and some bad things have resulted in good things. Like when I was happy about being able to get on a crowded elevator in SOHO because I was in a rush and then my elevator ended up being stuck between floors for three hours in 95-degree temperatures… (I no longer run after elevators by the way).

Maybe I’ll lose this job. Maybe I’ll find another job. A better job. Or a worse job that will force me to pursue another line of career, which could lead to who knows what? Fame? Fortune? Glory? For better or for worse, the possibilities are endless!

So I don’t have a panacea to offer you when things aren’t going well. But I am sharing this story with you because it gets me through rough times – especially during times of uncertainty. I hope it helps you as well.

In the meantime I’ll be playing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” on repeat.

Rainbow

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Fat Yoga

“Do overweight ladies do yoga? It seems to be for the thin and flexible.”

In one form or another, the sentiment above is one of the most common ones expressed to me ever since I started doing yoga. It is infuriating!

YOGA IS FOR EVERY BODY. Repeat after me: YOGA IS FOR EVERY BODY.

It doesn’t matter whether you can touch your toes or even see them. Everyone can practice yoga. And it makes me angry to think that maybe someone or something has made a person feel like she can’t come to yoga because she’s too fat.

As an overweight person will there be poses you can’t do or have more difficulty doing? Yes, of course! There are poses I can’t do simply because my arms are too short. That doesn’t mean I can’t do yoga – only that modifications have to be made. Because we are all so anatomically varied, yoga is different for every person. If you think you might be more comfortable, there are plus-sized yoga classes like Annie Carlin‘s “Larger Bodies Miniseries” at Golden Heart Yoga. Find and take the class where you will feel the most secure and at ease.

Every teacher is trained and prepared to teach yoga to students of all shapes, sizes and different levels of ability. So that is never an issue when you walk into a yoga class. But I can’t pretend that every yoga class is a judgment-free haven. Rest assured, those classes do exist and it’s important to keep looking until you find one. Why? Because yoga is good for you and if you enjoy it, nothing should stop you from doing it.

Yoga’s popularity in the U.S. exploded these past few years and I’m glad people are practicing but I worry that others who could benefit from it feel too intimidated to come or tried it and felt unwelcome. When I look out at my classes, the majority of my students are thin, white women. More often than not, I’m the only minority in the room. That reality is probably a combination of where I teach and where yoga is at this time (or at least people’s perception of it). Organizations like Decolonizing Yoga are working to dispel the notion that yoga is only for certain types of people.

So you mustn’t feel discouraged. There is a yoga home for every person. When you find it, I promise you it will have been worth the search. Now go out there and do some yoga!

Yoga on the Mall 2013

Resolution! Schmezolution!

Ever hear the joke that “my last New Year’s resolution was to stop making New Year’s resolutions?”

Okay, okay, you probably heard ME say it. (It just doesn’t get old!)

Frankly, I find resolutions to be a little silly so I don’t make them. Instead I set an intention for the new year with a list of actions that will help me with that intention.

For example, last year my intention was to become more courageous. So I  thought about what I have been afraid of (mostly failure) and how it is holding me back. Then I thought about some courageous actions I could take to encourage the behavior. Two really big ones were finally teaching my first Spinning class and learning to cook a dish (any dish). I accomplished both during the last quarter of the year. (The intention was to find more courage – not stop procrastinating after all). Taking larger chances, committing to things that are outside of my comfort zone and making new connections are a few other actions that contributed to my intention. It has made 2012 a phenomenal year.

But what is the difference between intention-setting and making resolutions, you ask? Well, I find resolutions to be uninspiring and a bit cliché – as cliché as breaking them. Most people promise to lose weight or “get in the best shape of their life” in the new year. But it doesn’t answer WHY? To what end? For what purpose? Or even how! The “why” is the motivation to keep going when temptation is just too… well, tempting. And without a clear call to action for sticking to the resolution you’re almost guaranteed to fail.

Losing weight just to lose weight without clear, measurable steps can falter in the face of a lot of beer and chicken wings paired with the best blue cheese you ever put in your mouth. (Sorry, I got distracted). On the other hand, setting your intention and then listing the actions to support that intention will expand your ability to get to where you want to go because you’re not limited to one action. After all, there are many ways to complete a journey.

So in a life where you have set an intention, imagine painting a bigger picture of your world! Imagine better things for yourself! Imagine expanding your sphere of influence! Then let’s go and make it happen!

Now tell me, what are your intentions for 2013 and what actions will you take to fulfill it?

Fireworks

Happy New Year!

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Bayasaa.

Running headlong into your fear

Yesterday I taught my first ever Spinning class.

No biggie, right? After all, I have been teaching yoga for years. This is just another format… WRONG! To quote our esteemed Vice President, “This is a big fucking deal.”

I was certified to teach Spinning a year and a half ago. That is how long it took to gather enough courage to teach a class that is the antithesis of yoga. For 18 months these feelings of shame hung over my head – haunting me every time I walked into the gym. My mental block said that the expectations of Spinning students are different. They are very demanding. And I just did not know if I had it in me to switch from my easygoing yoga teaching style to hardcore Spinning drill sergeant. I was afraid of failing my students. (I still am.)

If certain individuals had not relentlessly pushed me to teach, I would have tried to live the rest of my life as a coward. And never teach a single Spinning class. But I knew that I could not continue to live with the weight of my fear (and failure) on my shoulders. And it has been a constant companion for too long.

I practiced like crazy but when the day finally came as I sat on the Spinning bike waiting for students to walk in (and possibly walk out) I still felt shaky and uncertain. I kept saying in my head, “Don’t let them smell your fear!” Fortunately, the members at the National Naval Medical Center were incredibly encouraging and all those hours I spent agonizing over this moment was a waste of time. When class ended I was so ecstatic that I hugged the Front Desk guy on the way out.

Sitting on the other side of my conquered fear I chide myself for building it up so much that I paralyzed myself. And it stumped me for a really long time despite everyone’s reassurances that I would do okay. I would even ask myself why was I torturing myself like this? I don’t need to do this. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone… But I did. I needed to do it for myself because it was something I had set out to do and I was terrified. But I couldn’t let myself fail without at least giving it a try. To quote my friend, life coach Lauree Ostrofsky of Simply Leap:

I am really proud of myself. I faced this thing I had been so afraid of. Ultimately, I had to stop telling myself, “I’ll do it when I’m ready. I just need a little more time.” Sometimes the best time is RIGHT NOW and that feeling of readiness is never going to come. You just have to take that leap. The best part is? I feel a helluva lot lighter. And, yes, I put myself through an emotional wringer but it was worth it. At this moment, I am flying high and it feels like there is nothing I cannot do.

So now it is my turn to ask you, what are you afraid of and what are you waiting for? More importantly, how can I help?